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How to Get Started With Espalier

Starting a young tree in this elegant form is a simple task

Antonio Reis, shot by Sue Roman


Espalier is a technique that can add serious wow-factor to your garden. It means to grow your tree two-dimensionally. This saves space, and makes it easier to attend to the tree.

All it takes to create beautiful espaliers is a good plan, some judicious pruning, and a little patience.

In this video, Fine Gardening editor Danielle Sherry takes you through the initial steps of starting to espalier a fruit tree. You’ll need to set up a frame with wires and do some judicious pruning to begin.

How to espalier a fruit tree

Learn how to build a trellis that you can espalier a fruit tree on with this step-by-step guide.

Materials needed and process

1. Dig two holes. Each hole should be 2½ feet deep. Space them 8 feet apart.

2. Place a 4×4 rot-resistant post into each hole. We used 7-foot-high cedar posts, but you can go higher if you want.

3. Fill the holes back up with dirt. Tamp the holes down.

4. Make a mark 18 inches up from the ground on each post. This is where you will string the wire between the posts. Continue making marks every 18 inches as you go higher up the posts.

5. Drill holes in the middle of the post at your marked intervals. Screw in 4-inch eyebolts. Make sure you leave 2 inches between the post and the eyebolt loop. That’s where your tree branch will grow.

6. Run 12-gauge wire between the posts. Make sure the wire is taut.

7. Plant your tree dead center between the two posts, and just in front of the wire. Apples, pears, and quince trees make the best espalier.

8. Prune off any branches that don’t line up with your trellis. Once the tree only has branches that line up with your wire, tape those branches to the wire using nursery tape.

9. Leave the tips of the branches untied. This allows the branches to continue to grow out.


Check out Peter Thevenot’s instructions on espaliering a fruit tree against a stone or masonry wall.

Previous: Prune Fruit Trees and Shrubs at the Right Time Next: An Easy Approach to Espalier
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